Bid to stop breakaway backed

A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to prevent Ipswich breaking away from the rest of the county has been approved - despite opposition claims that it would leave all local government power in the county in the hands a clique of seven or eight councillors.

A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to prevent Ipswich breaking away from the rest of the county has been approved - despite opposition claims that it would leave all local government power in the county in the hands a clique of seven or eight councillors.

Suffolk County Council approved setting up a “pathfinder” project which would see the it sharing much of its bureaucracy with other local authorities.

All the district and borough councils in Suffolk are also signing up to the pathfinder project - except Ipswich which has launched a bid to become a unitary authority running all services in the town.

Suffolk estimates the pathfinder bid would save £150m over five years through efficiency savings and cutting out duplication.

Ipswich is not involved in the bid, but it will be allowed to join the pathfinder project if its own application for unitary status is rejected.

Labour county councillors voted against the bid, which was approved by 46-17. Opposition leader Julian Swainson said Suffolk should have sought approval for one or more unitary councils.

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He claimed that just seven or eight councillors would have all the power, leaving the other 380 county and districts councillors with little to do.

“This bid is nothing more than a unitary council by stealth, minus the accountability,” claimed Mr Swainson.

His arguments were rejected by county council leader Jeremy Pembroke who said the pathfinder bid would improve service delivery, end confusion among the public about which council does what - and above all would support the Government's objective of greater accountability.

Communities and local government secretary Ruth Kelly will make a decision on the bid once she has either cleared or rejected Ipswich's application to become a single tier unitary authority.

The bids have to be submitted by the end of this month and her decision will be announced towards the end of the spring.